It’s true that much of our wildlife is in danger. Like, an alarmingly large amount. In 2021 alone, 22 species were declared extinct in the United States.
And globally, Earth is facing what scientists refer to as its “sixth mass extinction,” primarily thanks to human activity. You know, deforestation, climate change, overconsumption, overpopulation, industrial farming, poaching … the usual suspects.
It sounds like dystopian science fiction, but sadly, it’s the reality we are currently living in.
But today, there is a silver lining. Because the World Wildlife Fund recently reported 224 completely new species.
From a snake who channels David Bowie to a monkey with ivory spectacles, there are a lot of newly discovered creatures here to offer a bit of hope to otherwise bleak statistics.
a map of the Mekong region
WWF’s report, released on Jan. 19, covered the rich, biodiverse habitats of the Greater Mekong region, which includes China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Myanmar.
Mekong is home to many species both strange and peculiar. Among the 163 species reported in 2016 were the rainbow-headed snake of Laos, noted for its similarity to Ziggy Stardust, and a Klingon newt, pleasing Star Trek fans everywhere … including me.
Mekong is also where you might find the extremely rare saola, otherwise known as the Asian unicorn (oddly enough, it doesn’t only have one horn).
And let’s not forget the dementor wasp, a vicious insect named after the soul-sucking specters in “Harry Potter.” These gnarly creatures inject a paralyzing venom into their prey before gobbling them up alive.
If that’s not nightmare fuel, I don’t know what is.
The latest list includes a monkey with ghostly white circles around its eyes, dubbed the Popa langur, named after Myanmar’s once active Mt. Popa volcano.The Popa langur also carries the title of “Only New Mammal Discovered.” It’s a bit of a mouthful, but still noteworthy.
In addition, there's the bright orange twin slug snake, which consumes, you guessed it, slugs. You are what you eat, after all.
Plus a new ginger plant called the stink bug for its pungent odor, which wasn’t found in a jungle at all, but rather at a plant shop in northeastern Thailand.
Though these findings are extraordinary, K. Yoganand, regional lead of wildlife and wildlife crime for WWF-Greater Mekong, told Reuters that these plants and animals still face “intense threat,” saying that “many species [will be] going extinct even before they are described.”The Popa langur, for instance, is already a candidate for extinction, as only 200-250 are estimated to survive in the wild, CBS reported.
That is a sobering reminder. But luckily there are ways our species can help.
On its website, WWF offers two options. Under the “Action Center,” you’ll find different ways you can actively join in on particular campaigns, like repealing oil and gas programs in the arctic.
Alternatively, under the “adopt an animal” section, you’ll find gift and apparel items available for purchase, where proceeds go toward helping those animals facing the threat of extinction. I’m personally eyeing the adorable plush black jaguar.
These amazing creatures provide so much beauty, awe and wonder to the planet. No action toward their preservation is too small.
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